Thursday, October 21, 2010

Transitions from Yeshivah to Public School

David does not deal well with transitions and this should have factored into our decision to switch him to public school. This consideration should have been given even more weight since this is just a trial year and it is very possible he will have to undergo another transition come next September if we are unhappy with public school.

I'm not sure why, but for some reason this issue didn't factor much into our deliberations over whether or not we should switch schools. Part of me believes that children--even those with transition difficulties--are much more resilient than we give them credit for. They frequently undergo many transitions without adjustment difficulties but it is easy to overlook these adjustment-free transitions. Perhaps we thought that the potential benefits outweighed any transition problems? For whatever reason, this objection was pushed aside.

It is still too early to gauge how his new school is in general and in specific how his transition is proceeding. The truth is that at first glance it has not been a smooth transition and it is still hard for us to determine if he is happy. Last year he loved school. He looked forward to it every day and he couldn't wait to return after a vacation period. This year, however, I don't sense that same excited anticipation.

I've asked him on a number of occasions if he likes his new school and other occasions--and I realize this was a dangerous question--if he likes it better or worse than his old yeshivah. He always answers that he liked his yeshivah much better (and at first he wanted to know when is going back), at which point my heart sinks down into my tuchus. But when I ask for an explanation, he says that his lunch in public school is "nasty" and he misses lunches they served him in yeshivah. "Ok, but aside from lunch, do you like your new school?" He continues to respond in the negative, at which point my heart drops to my toes (even though by now I can predict his answers). He tells me that in yeshivah they had two snacks, in the morning and in the afternoon, but in public school there is only one snack. Ok, and besides lunch and snack? Well in yeshivah they had recess in the morning and the afternoon, but in public school only once a day. And gym period in public school isn't fun (it's a formal phys ed class rather than the glorified extended recess he is used to). Ok, so besides lunch, snack, recess and gym, how do the schools compare. "I don't know, but the lunch in public school is nasty." Sigh. So he is really fine in public school and he is just nitpicking about lunch, etc., or is he really unhappy overall and the only way he knows how to express it is by complaining about lunch, etc.?

So maybe he really isn't happy? Or maybe this shift in attitude was inevitable anyway as last year he was in pre-school and first grade is a very different environment. Who knows if the attitude he expressed last year would have continued had he remained in his yeshivah? Maybe it would have even been worse than public school! Indeed, the first grade class in his yeshivah is much more formal than pre-school, e.g., the children sit at their desks all day and it seems much of the day would have consisted of didactic instruction and individual assignments. Although his public school is very rigorous and academic--perhaps too much for our tastes--the classroom is modeled on some modern, fluffy educational ideas that permit the children greater freedom and variety throughout the day. Maybe he would have chaffed too much had he remained in the confines of the yeshivah's traditional classroom?

Even though I don't sense any excitement exuding from David regarding his public school, I do sometimes see signs he is enjoying it. For example, while he is having problems with math, he constantly come to us and randomly rambles some addition or subtraction equations ("do you know 4 + 4 = 8), or counts in multiples or additives (10, 20, 40, 80, 160). And every so often he "tests" me by asking ridiculous question like what's "one thousand twenty hundred six" + 83. One free afternoon he even filled up some pages in a little notepad with equations . . . out of his own volition. He showed it off to us and explained he did it so that if he forgets an answer he can look it up. He also rattles off various facts and concepts he learned in science and social studies. Finally, more and more frequently he throws out Spanish words he is learning. (His school is very strong on foreign languages.) Just this morning he suddenly listed all the colors he knows in Spanish.

So maybe all this does demonstrate excitement on his part, just in a more mature way than I am used to from pre-school? (But I am really not sure if he is genuinely excited to be learning Spanish or if he is trying to impress me, as he knows that I love it when he uses Hebrew and Russian.)

To be continued . . . ("Second Guessing")

Update: While davening this morning he asked me to teach him the rest of Ashrei (he only knows the first few lines). This is the first time since he left yeshivah that he has been willing to learn more davening, which I think is a good sign and hopefully not an exceptional occurrence. I should note that Shabbat is a different story and he is constantly learning more davening, specifically how to "finish off." He knows most of anim zmiros already and he said it in shul a few times.

1 comment:

tesyaa said...

Hmm - you have a lot going on here. Major transition to a new school, plus a major transition from what's essentially preschool to a first grade environment. Plus a kid who's not exactly the most flexible. Plus parents who are worried about whether they made the right decision, which he's picking up on.

As you know, I have been there so, if you want to talk more, just let me know.